Daniela Castillo DVM, MS

Spotlight on our new board member

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?

I joined IWRC in October 2020. I became involved because Wildlife Rehabilitation is my true passion. I worked as a wildlife rehabilitator and director of a wildlife center 10 years ago and I really miss everything about it. One of my biggest goals in life is to start a wildlife rehabilitation center in my hometown, Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Currently there is not a wildlife rehabilitation center per se and I think that it is needed because of the rich biodiversity that exists in southern Mexico. I would like to learn as much as I can, meet people and make the connections to make this dream of mine possible. 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC’s mission.

The mitigation of human-wildlife conflict worldwide. This is an issue that is very interesting to me as I learned about it while I was studying my M.S. in Wildlife Conservation. I think it is an area that we don’t look really critically and deeply into it as we should, since we live in a very anthropocentric world. Our food system and priorities as humans are destroying our world and sadly driving to extinction the last wild animals on our planet. While I was still living in Oaxaca I learned about the killing of jaguars by farmers because they were hunting their livestock and they felt threatened by this top predator. I volunteered with a local conservation group to perform surveys and I was very shocked to find out that local people did not understand the ecological value of a top predator and  endangered species such as the jaguar. Another example is the conflict with bison in the Yellowstone area due to the risk of transmission of Brucellosis to livestock around the area. We give priority to human interest over wild animals and in this case we chose to cull thousands of bison to protect livestock. The last conflict that I can think of as an example is the competition for grazing areas. Currently close to 30% of the planet’s arable land is occupied by livestock feed crop cultivation.

 I think we need to educate people on the value of wild animals and their importance to the health of our planet. Currently there are plant based options for every food item and clothing. I do not think it is fair to keep destroying our beautiful and only planet by giving priority to consuming unnecessary animal products when we can have more environmentally friendly options. 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

The accreditation of my veterinary license in the United States. As a veterinarian who graduated from a heavy production animal university in Mexico, even as the valedictorian of my class, it was not easy to pass my boards in order to become licensed in the USA. It took me four years of working as a Veterinary Technician and a great deal of independent study  to complete the process. Getting my license in California has allowed me to contribute to a very important issue: overpopulation of cats and dogs by spaying and neutering surgeries and practicing shelter medicine. 

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?  

If I could choose, I would bring back to life my wildlife rehabilitation mentor Teresa Stevenson. She was the director of the wildlife rehabilitation center that I started volunteering for in 2011 in Florida. She taught me a great deal about wildlife rehabilitation. She was an amazing friend, a unique human being, a passionate and skilled wildlife rehabilitator. Unfortunately she passed away in a car accident last October 28 2021 and honestly I am still grieving her loss and I really wish I could have had more time with her. 

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Professionally, when I have a surgery I have never done before but I have learned about it in courses and I feel ready to practice it. When I start the surgery I feel like I am riding a roller coaster and when it is over I am ready to do it all over again.

Personally, when I am about to travel internationally. I love airports and airplanes.  I love meeting new places and new cultures. I really want to travel all over the world. 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

My three-legged cat Valito – whose name comes from the Spanish word “Valiente” meaning brave and chosen by my husband. He came to the shelter where I was working full time in 2018 with severe radial nerve damage on his right arm. First he tested positive for Panleukopenia so he had to be quarantined and treated for it. Then, when he was healthy enough I did his thoracic limb amputation – my first solo surgery of this kind. Afterwards, he had a few complications with the surgery and I had to take him back for a follow-up procedure to fix a deep infection. Then I fostered him while he was recovering; we fell in love with him and I decided to keep him as my son in case he had any future complications with his surgery. Four years later, he is faster than my other 3 four-legged feline kids and he is the ruler of the house. We sometimes call him “Bullito” because he is really fast and tries to dominate and even strike everyone else in our house. This experience – with him being my first solo surgery and taking care of him after his surgery – made me a more confident surgeon. Since then I have performed that surgery a few dozen times successfully.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.